Track Work: Big Hush, ‘Wholes’

By Lang Kanai

D.C.'s Big Hush is "reapproaching being loud."
D.C.'s Big Hush is "reapproaching being loud." Lang Kanai/WAMU

After churning through three drummers and losing a guitarist who split for Japan, D.C. band Big Hush has only recently arrived at what could be called stability.

It’s been a process, according to guitarist and vocalist Owen Wuerker, 25. “First we had a ’90s alt-rock thing, then a shoegazey winter period, and then for the biggest chunk of time we didn’t have a drummer,” he says. “And now we’re kind of reapproaching being loud.”

wholesAfter playing a number of acoustic sets, the Petworth-based group—now with drummer Emma Baker—has found that shift a little tricky. “Playing acoustic, you’re trying to get the most out of your voice and your instrument,” says Genevieve Ludwig, 24, who also sings and plays guitar. “And then switching to playing loud, it’s more a game of trying to be restrained, trying to figure out levels.”

Yet Wuerker believes that its new cassette EP, Wholes, is the group’s most “honest” work to date. He calls it “an actual representation of what we sound like live.” Its title track is its most articulate, even while its vocals sound like sighs. As Ludwig’s feathery voice hangs in the air, Wuerker and guitarist Sean Borja go back and forth on guitars in a call-and-response. The bass, played by Chris Taylor, sounds like it’s leading us down a rabbit hole. Taylor jokes that a friend once called Big Hush’s music “Beach Boys on acid.”

If it is, it sounds like a heavy trip: The lyrics of “Whole” dwell on death, the search for identity and remaining whole in a world that wants to pull you apart (“Don’t try to be whole,” go the lyrics). “It has a kind of morbid meaning,” Ludwig says. “We had a number of young friends die over the years. It just became something that we’re used to—this [crappy] circumstance—and the song was born out of the idea of losing your ground.”

On the other side of the coin, “Wholes” celebrates the self. It’s not Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” but the track ultimately encourages acceptance. “It’s making you think about not trying to be perfect, that no one is a perfect circle,” Ludwig says. “Everyone is just what they are.”

Big Hush plays an EP release show Nov. 22 at Babe City.